International Legal News
Weekly update: 10 May 2021 – 16 May 2021
The following media round up on international and foreign policy issues from around the world for the period of 10 May 2021 to 16 May 2021.
The Guernica Group will provide weekly media updates from the International Criminal Court, European Court of Human Rights, United Nations, European Union and other sources. Should you wish to contribute or submit a media summary, opinion piece or blog, please send to Ned Vucijak for consideration.
Turkey – 10 May 2021
Women around the world will participate in today’s Global Day of Action, protesting President Erdoğan's decision to quit the landmark international treaty on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. Amnesty International’s Secretary General, Agnès Callamard, said that “ten years after it was signed, women are speaking today with one voice to demand that the Turkish authorities reverse a decision that will put the safety of millions of women and girls in peril”.
United Nations (UN) – Iraq – 10 May 2021
The UN Security Council heard that a UN team investigating ISIL atrocities in Iraq has established “clear and convincing evidence” of genocide against the Yazidi religious minority. They have finalised initial case briefs on two key priorities: attacks against the Yazidi community in the Sinjar region in northern Iraq, and the mass killing of unarmed cadets and military personnel at Tikrit Air Academy in June 2014. Karim Khan, Special Adviser and Head of the team, known as UNITAD, stated: “I am able to announce that based upon independent and impartial investigations, complying with international standards and UN best practice, there is clear and convincing evidence that the crimes against the Yazidi people clearly constituted genocide”.
United Kingdom (UK) / Serbia – 11 May 2021
A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office command paper sets out an international treaty between the UK and Serbia incorporating the provisions of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Communities and their Member States of the one part, and the Republic of Serbia, of the other part (the "EU-Serbia Agreement").
Israel – 11 May 2021
Palestinian militants say they fired 130 missiles at the Israeli city of Tel Aviv after an Israeli air strike felled a tower block in the Gaza Strip. The 13-storey building was attacked an hour and a half after residents and local people were warned to evacuate. Israel's military says it is targeting militants in Gaza in response to earlier rocket attacks, and at least 30 people have died in some of the worst violence in years. The international community has urged both sides to end the escalation, which follows days of unrest in Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier that the main militant group, Hamas, had "crossed a red line" by firing rockets towards Jerusalem for the first time in years. He warned that the strength and frequency of Israel's air strikes would increase.
European Court of Human Rights – 11 May 2021
In the case of Halet v. Luxembourg, the European Court of Human Rights held by a majority that there had been no violation of Article 10 of the ECHR. The case concerned Mr. Halet’s criminal conviction in the “Luxleaks” case for disclosing tax documents concerning some of his employer’s clients. The Luxembourg courts did not accept whistleblowing as a justification for Mr Halet’s actions, taking the view that the disclosure of the documents, which were subject to professional secrecy, had caused his employer harm, resulting from the damage to the firm’s reputation and the loss of client confidence in its internal security arrangements. The Court of Appeal sentenced him to a fine of €1,000. Mr. Halet alleged that his conviction amounted to an interference with his freedom of expression. In assessing the case, the European Court considered whether he should be regarded as a whistleblower for the purposes of the Court’s case-law based on the principles established in Guja v. Moldova and Heinisch v. Germany. The Court found that the applicant should be regarded as a whistleblower, but that the domestic courts had struck a fair balance between the need to protect the rights of the applicant’s employer on the one hand and the need to protect Mr Halet’s freedom of expression on the other.
United Kingdom (UK) – 12 May 2021
The British government revealed that the Bosnian Serb war criminal Radovan Karadžić will serve the rest of his life sentence for genocide in an unnamed UK prison. Karadžić was sentenced to 40 years in 2016 for his role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and the four-year siege of Sarajevo by Serb forces from 1992 to 1996. After the war, Karadžić went on the run and was only caught and handed over to the ICTY in 2008. In 2019, his sentence was increased to life.
Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) – 12 May 2021
In the case of WS v. Bundesrepublik Deutschland, the CJEU held that the ne bis in idem principle can preclude the arrest, within the Schengen Area and the EU, of a person who is the subject of an INTERPOL Red Notice. This is the case where the competent authorities are aware of a final judicial decision, taken in a State that is a party to the Schengen Agreement or a Member State, that the trial of that person in respect of the same acts as those on which that Red Notice is based has already been finally disposed of by a State that is a party to that agreement or by a Member State respectively.
United States (US) / Saudi Arabia – 13 May 2021
The Biden administration’s failure to impose sanctions on Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has led to an increase in severe sentences for political prisoners in the kingdom. The UK-based human rights organisation Grant Liberty found that twice as many harsh sentences had been allocated to Saudi prisoners of conscience in April than in the first three months of this year combined. Lucy Rae, of Grant Liberty, said: “The international community must demonstrate that the only way the kingdom can improve its standing is through genuine reform. That means we need the tough action [presidential] candidate Biden talked about, not the weakness President Biden has so far shown.”
China – 13 May 2021
According to a new research by the Uyghur Human Rights Project, China has imprisoned or detained at least 630 imams and other Muslim religious figures since 2014 in its crackdown in the Xinjiang region. Many of the detained clerics faced broad charges like "propagating extremism", "gathering a crowd to disturb social order", and "inciting separatism". According to testimony from relatives, the real crimes behind these charges are often things like preaching, convening prayer groups, or simply acting as an imam.
Israel / Palestine – 14 May 2021
The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, due to an increase in civilian casualties, issued an urgent appeal for all parties involved in this week's escalation of violence in the occupied Palestinian enclave of Gaza, and Israel, to "immediately cease the fighting", or risk creating an "uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis". According to latest news reports, the day has seen the most intense exchanges of the week between Israeli Defence Forces and that of the militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza. The enclave continues to be bombed by Israeli airstrikes and artillery fire, while Hamas rocket barrages continue into Israel. The UN Security Council announced that it will convene on Sunday for an open meeting to discuss the worsening situation. Diplomatic efforts are reportedly underway to negotiate an end to the soaring violence.
Africa – 14 May 2021
Thousands of women and girls are being targeted by the deliberate tactic of using rape as a weapon in the civil war that has erupted in Ethiopia. An Ethiopian nun has spoken of the widespread horror she and her colleagues are seeing on a daily basis inside the isolated region of Tigray. She stated that “rape is starting at the age of 8 and to the age of 72. Many, many have been raped. This has all happened so quickly”, adding that “it is so widespread, I go on seeing it everywhere, thousands. This rape is in public, in front of family, husbands, in front of everyone. Their legs and their hands are cut, all in the same way.”